Canada aims to solve trade spat before Obama visit

Mon Feb 2, 2009 3:05pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will seek a resolution to its concerns over the "Buy American" provision in the U.S. economic stimulus bill before President Barack Obama visits Ottawa on February 19, the trade minister said on Monday.

"That is precisely our goal, to have a solution before the president arrives here in Canada," Stockwell Day told legislators in Parliament.

"I think it's possible," he said.

The "Buy American" measure would require public works projects to use only U.S.-made iron and steel. It passed the House of Representatives in January as part of an $825 billion economic recovery plan.

Day came under attack from opposition politicians, who accused the Conservative government of moving too slowly to pressure U.S. diplomats to either withdraw the provision -- widely condemned as protectionist -- or exempt Canada from it.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said Canadian jobs were on the line as the U.S. Senate considers broadening the provision to other products in addition to iron and steel.

"Protectionist measures in the U.S. Congress are now aimed not just at Canadian iron and steel but at manufactured imports used in public works projects, and so thousands of Canadians' jobs and billions of dollars in exports are at risk," Ignatieff said.

Canada and the United States share the world's largest trading relationship, worth more than $1.5 billion a day, and the two economies are closely intertwined.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; writing by Louise Egan; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 28, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>